You start off in a tutorial that does a relatively good job of explaining how everything works. You have a card deck with a limited number of cards, mojo for card creation that's earned every round, and several different types of cards that do different things during a round. It's all pretty straightforward... until the frustration kicks in.
The tutorial was so gentle with me that once I was thrown out into the real game, I was shocked to find that all of my computer-controlled opponents were so much more powerful than me. I did a search on the official forums and found that many players have the same issue but that it's supposed to be that way. Certain AI opponent settings create an NPC hero that has more cards, more mojo, and a better deck than its human counterpart. In other words, the game literally creates a computer-controlled opponent that is more powerful than you. Is this design flaw the actual choice of the developers? Was the game going to warn me at some point by saying, "Don't worry, you don't suck at this basic game. We just created an opponent that is much more powerful than you"?
Unfortunately, the multiplayer system rarely seemed to work. I could find a one-on-one match pretty easily, but anything more than that meant that I was stuck staring at the "waiting" button for an eternity before giving up. On top of that, the connection server would bug out and the game would occasionally lock up. Granted, this was on the day of launch, but it still didn't bode well.
Switching to a melee deck made all the difference in the world. I replayed the same, troubling single-player missions as before and did much better. Not only that, but the melee deck appeared to come with a wider variety of cards or at least did a better job at offering a few different types of cards. The melee monsters buffed each other, took more damage, and hurt my enemies much more. It just seemed to much better than the archery deck.
Combat Monsters is generally fun to play and offers a neat in-game item shop to buy new decks, cards, and items. The prices are not too steep, but I have not played the game enough to know whether or not the cards from the shop are much more powerful than the ones you get in-game. Time and a little balancing will probably make all of the difference there.
The developers need to tweak the beginning card decks, adjust the server issues, work on ways to encourage more players to line up for matches, and fix the small bugs that pop up while you're playing, some bad enough to cause a restart of the game. Other than those issues, the game is off to a relatively solid start. With time, it might prove to be an great tiny little strategy game.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.